A few weeks ago I had intentions of hiking the Kanati Fork Trail, but I opted to cut back on my miles and ventured elsewhere.  I wondered what I may have missed, since I plan my hikes to hit them at just the right time of year when something unique is happening.  It's a popular wildflower hike, but I wasn't sure what I would this time, if anything.  Regardless, I didn't have any other hike planned for the day, so I figured I would give this one another go.
          I awoke at sunrise to find that the storms had gone but several interesting cloud formations remained, adding to the scenic beauty of the drive over into North Carolina.  The air was cool and the forest dark.  I left the sounds of traffic behind me and ascended into the wilderness.  Not much was blooming at this point, just an occasional foamflower.  Most of the trillium I passed were well past peak and losing their luster.  Then I received a nice surprise when I stumbled upon my first vasey's trillium of the year.  It is similar to the catesby's trillium in that the dark maroon flower dangles below the leaves.  I managed to count only a handful in prime condition the remainder of the hike, but it was certainly great to finally see one.  The higher I got, the more abundant other wildflowers became.  The speckled wood lily was the most populous, lining much of the trail in an impressive display.
Picture
           Others included solomon's seal, false solomon's seal, violets, foamflower, and another first...putty root.  There were several stretches of trail where one had to dance around rocks and mud, or blaze through overgrown grasses and other plants.  Still the ascent was gradual and the rising sun made the surroundings seem pleasant.  
           Before reaching the trail's terminus atop the Thomas Divide, I was treated to one more surprise, the last elusive type of trillium...purple wake robin.  This flower is similar to the vasey's in that they share the same maroon color, but it's closest relative is the white erect trillium.  Both have thinner flower petals that stand above the leaves.  Its most interesting characteristic is the odor; hence, it's other name...stinking benjamin.  The find thus completed my goal of successfully seeing and photographing all of the park's diverse trillium...at least according to my Smokies wildflower books.
Picture
          There were no views afforded along this trail, but occasionally one could gaze through the forest canopy toward the surrounding ridges.  The sun shone brightly between the remaining clouds and the dense fog swirled at the lowest reaches of the valleys.  The descent passed quickly and before I knew it I was enjoying the scenic drive back to Gatlinburg, still early in the morning.  Another great few days spent in the park for sure!  April was great, May has been fantastic, and my favorite time of year in June is fast approaching.  But before I get ahead of myself, it's time to head back up the mountain.